Why Neurodiversity is Important to Feminism (The Autistic Feminist #1)

This week on The Autistic Feminist, we talk about the reason this series was created in the first place: why neurodiversity is important to feminism.

Anyone who is an active feminist knows how the old saying goes: “if you don’t fight for all women, you fight for no women.” But for one reason or another, many neurodivergent and disabled women are not getting too much attention.

Most of the time, many can be unaware of this fact, so I can’t really look down upon these people. The least I can do is educate them about it.

The official definition of “neurodiversity” is the range of differences in individual brain function and behavioral traits, regarded as part of a normal variation in the human population. It’s mostly used within the context of autism spectrum disorders. So, basically, neurodiversity fights for those whose brains don’t function “normally” in society.

A good chunk of mainstream society considers autism a disease, but the neurodiversity movement pushes the fact that we’re not “broken” or “diseased,” we just need help sometimes, some more than others. Many people also think that disability rights are not a social justice issue since disabilities have been associated with the medical field for the longest time, but it actually has a lot more to do with social justice than most people think.

As you all know, feminism is about equality and justice for women, and many women out there are disabled or neurodivergent, so if we exclude them, we’re missing a massive part of the population, just like if we excluded women of color and LGBTQ women.

The neurodiversity movement can be a way to challenge the stereotypes that feminists have been challenging for decades. The most common example is how many girls on the autism spectrum tend to go undiagnosed for years because most girls tend to not show the “stereotypical symptoms.” I wasn’t diagnosed until I was in 8th grade for those exact reasons.

Feminism is about choice, and the neurodiversity movement has the same principles as far as the wiring of the brain goes.

Many people tend to not bring up the neurodiversity movement when talking about human rights because there are a lot of common misconceptions about it, such as not viewing autism as a disability. The neurodiversity movement actually doesn’t say that our lives are amazing. Our lives can be difficult, and out difficulties vary depending on the person, but that doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with us. Plus, fighting for disability rights means fighting for better accommodations to lead a more successful life. Believe it or not, needing help and deserving basic human rights are not mutually exclusive.

Neurodiversity doesn’t just cover autism spectrum disorders. The term “neurodivergent” was coined to give a broader definition that did not center autism spectrum disorders. Neurodiversity can also cover other disorders such as OCD, ADHD, schizophrenia, and many other mental disorders that doesn’t have a “normal” wiring of the brain.

With that, when we exclude neurodivergent women from feminism, we’re excluding more than half the women that need to be fought for.